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Restaurant Openings

Week of October 13, 2008: Lugo Caffè, AQ Kafé, Naya Mezze & Grill, and Bistrouge.


Lugo Caffè
One Penn Plaza, 33rd St. nr. Eighth Ave. 212-760-2700
Infatuated by all things Italian—but especially the men’s-shirts shops called camicerie—the owners of Lugo Menswear in Nolita have expanded their brand (“Lugo Tailored Lifestyle”) with an Italian restaurant opposite Madison Square Garden. The 150-seat spot has replaced their previous foray into food, Tupelo Grill, but chef Greg Lombardi has stayed on to convert the steaks-and-chops menu into one that celebrates, as the newly installed sign over the bar advertises, la dolce vita. Selections now include fried artichokes with lemon aïoli, the increasingly popular clam pizza (see “Out of Their Shells,”), and fettuccini with prosciutto and wild mushrooms, plus such steakhouse vestiges as the New York strip and a $72 porterhouse “Fiorentina” for two. Italian wines are available by the glass and the half or full bottle, and—surprise!—the staff has been outfitted in shirts and ties from Lugo’s collection.

AQ Kafé
1800 Broadway, nr. 58th St. 718-784-7364
Other than the change from a C to a K, how is this casual extension of the Aquavit brand different from the AQ Café that resided at Scandinavia House for the last seven years? For one thing, according to Aquavit’s Håkan Swahn, the new Columbus Circle spot was designed specifically to house the café (unlike the former museum-concession premises, now occupied by Smörgås Chef). For another, the focus has shifted to the fresh breads and pastries baked at a commissary kitchen in Long Island City, like cinnamon buns with cardamom and almonds and the onion bialys fashioned into sandwiches of smoked salmon and herbed cream cheese. But with gentle prices and continuous service from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., the new spot will soon, we imagine, resume its predecessor’s role as a neighborhood pit stop for quick Nordic breakfasts and lunches, like Swedish pancakes, tomato soup with Gouda and Västerbotten cheese, herring platters, and the iconic Swedish meatballs.

Naya Mezze & Grill
1057 Second Ave., nr. 56th St. 212-319-7777
Thankfully not, as you might surmise, a modish Canadian-water bar, Naya is a contemporary Lebanese restaurant, with a sleek design and traditional menu that owner Hady Kfoury hopes to replicate at future franchise locations. Kfoury, a front-of-the-house veteran of Daniel and Payard, operates three restaurants in Beirut. That’s also the birthplace of his chef, Rafic Nehme, whose menu includes a $28 prix fixe option: three mini meze (from a selection of tabbouleh, hummus, baba ghannouj, and more), and a choice of shawarma or kebab. Should you wish to expand your Middle Eastern–cuisine horizons, however, opt for marinated striped bass with spicy tahini, walnuts, garlic, and cilantro, or pomegranate-sauced halloumi cheese—two dishes you’re unlikely to encounter at your neighborhood falafel shack.

AND... Erstwhile investment banker turned restaurateur Eda Kilic has opened Bistrouge, with a Mediterranean menu and cocktails by Shige of Angel’s Share (432 E. 13th St., nr. First Ave.; 212-677-2200).


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